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Nokia as a brand is beloved by many. The Nokia 3310, in particular, is iconic, famed for its inability to be broken and the features and games it came preloaded with. It may not have been the bestselling phone in Nokia’s arsenal, but it was the one that went down in history. With 126 million units sold, the 3310 cemented its position as one of the most game-changing phones of all time. In fact, much of the list of the world’s top 20 best-selling phones is made up of Nokias.

List of best selling phones. As we can see, Nokia makes up most of it.
Source: Wikipedia

Nokia’s long and storied history

While the company itself was founded in the 1800s, we’re going to be covering their steady decline from greatness before their recent resurgence. When the company began to face declining sales following the turn of the century, it had plenty of reserves to keep going and developing smartphones for many years to come. They even tried to break into the gaming market and the laptop market. Nothing was really working though, and come 2010 the company had announced the Nokia N8 running Symbian^3. If Symbian^3 were to be released today, it would be deemed very much an Android competitor. It looked decently like Android at the time as well.

Given that we don’t see any Nokia phones running Symbian^3, though, it’s safe to assume that this plan didn’t exactly work out for the Finnish company. Following the failures associated with the Nokia N8 and Symbian^3, the company for the first time in its history appointed a non-Finnish CEO. That CEO was Stephen Elop, previously of Microsoft’s Business Division. In February of 2010, the company open-sourced Symbian^3 and closed down the Symbian Foundation in November. In February 2011, the company announced a partnership with Microsoft to launch smartphones running Windows Phone. Nokia’s market share began to drop once they began to exclusively focus on Windows Phone. Fans of the company began to suspect that Elop’s previous employer in Microsoft was influencing Nokia.

With the launch of the Lumia 800 running Windows Phone in 2011, things went from bad to worse as sales fell. They didn’t pick up going into 2012 either, with the company posting consistent losses each quarter. 10,000 employees were cut in June of 2012 in a cost-saving measure, though things began to look up in 2013 with the Lumia 920 launched in late 2012. In September 2013, Microsoft finally purchased the company’s mobile and devices division for $7.2 billion. This then became Microsoft Mobile, which failed and became defunct in October of 2017. Nokia signed a non-compete clause with Microsoft at this time as well, meaning that they could not re-enter the mobile space until at least 2016.

Microsoft purchases Nokia’s mobile and devices division for $7.2 billion

After Microsoft purchased Nokia’s mobile and devices division in 2013, it soon realized that it had made a mistake. Windows Phone was more or less a flop, with the division later being sold to HMD Global in 2016, a Finnish company founded by previous Nokia executive Jean-Francois Baril. Meanwhile, Nokia’s global brand value slipped from 5th place all the way down to 98th as it began to focus on its networks division. It wasn’t until 2016 when the non-compete clause expired and the company could re-enter the mobile space. Nokia began the process of purchasing Alcatel-Lucent for €15.6 billion, with the merger completing on the 3rd of November, 2016. Nokia now owns Alcatel as a result, which is licensed to TCL Corporation. TCL Corporation also has licenses with Blackberry Mobile and Palm.

HMD Global becomes the exclusive manufacturer of Nokia smartphones

HMD Global logo

May of 2016 is when things get exciting, though. This is when Microsoft sold Microsoft Mobile to HMD Global. Nokia quickly jumped to make HMD the exclusive manufacturer of Nokia-branded smartphones outside of Japan. HMD Global then released the Nokia 6, followed by the Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 at that year’s Mobile World Congress. Funnily enough, the company then created a 2017 version of the iconic Nokia 3310.

As you can see, the Finnish company has gone through a lot of changes over the years. While the name has remained the same, it’s clear that the company has not. Under entirely new management, its mobile phone division is not what it once was. HMD Global has numerous problems in how it handles the enthusiast community. Not only that, the company has failed to live up to promises and the General Public License v2 when it comes to releasing kernel source code. The company has done excellent work in reviving the brand, but it still has a long way left to go.

Post Author: Adam Conway

An Irish technology fanatic in his second year of a Computer Science degree. Lover of smartphones, cybersecurity and Counter Strike. You can contact me at adam.conway@irishtech.ie.